The stunning murals of Italian street artist Jorit Agoch can be seen all around the world. Though ‘seen’ might not be the appropriate wording here: ‘can’t be missed’ perhaps does better justice to his work. His huge hyper-realistic portraits span entire building façades in places as far flung as New York, Buenos Aires and Shenzhen, but it is in his native Naples where he remains most active. The 31-year-old has decorated the city with some of its most iconic figures, from patron saint San Gennaro to unofficial patron saint Diego Maradona.
“Naples underpins everything I do and all my artistic production,” says Jorit. His real name is Jorit Ciro Cerullo, and he began leaving his mark on Neapolitan life in the northwest commune of Quarto at the age of 13. “It’s a presence that constantly accompanies me. It’s in my ideas and my spirit, it has a cardinal importance in my creative process and my inspiration. It’s an ever-present element that will never leave me.”
That bond places him in a proud lineage. Since its pre-Roman origins, Naples has always been an open-air art gallery, first curated by the architects of ancient Greece, whose ruined temples continue to draw crowds. Later, the poet Virgil is said to have fashioned a large bronze horse in the city centre, and today the streets are awash with eye-catching artefacts from competing traditions, with votive shrines to various saints sitting alongside modern street art such as Banksy’s Madonna con Pistola (Madonna with a Pistol) in Piazza Gerolomini.
“My first wall was about seven years ago and it was the first work of that size ever created in Naples,” says Jorit, who still relies on his “beloved spray cans” to transform the landscape. “Today there are more than 60 large-scale works made by other artists, Neapolitan and non-Neapolitan, of which only seven or eight are mine.” Together they add colour and character to the spawling city, the third largest in Italy. But few can match Jorit’s ability to capture Naples’ complex soul, its knack for blending the sacred and the profane.